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What happens to my will if I have properties and assets overseas?

Australia has a highly diverse, multicultural and immigrant population. Therefore, it is not surprising that many individuals have assets not only in Australia, but also overseas. It is important that an individual’s will is able to cover all assets that expand across multiple jurisdictions. Wills that are made in New South Wales will cover assets owned within New South Wales as well as the rest of Australia. However, in relation to overseas assets, each country has its own laws and rules of succession. There are two options available for assets owned in different countries.

International Will

An international will can be made pursuant to the Convention Providing a Uniform Law on the Form of an International Will 1973. This convention came into force in Australia on March 10th, 2015 with the purpose of providing a uniform law and an appropriate form on international wills. An international will essentially allow your assets to be dealt with validly under Australian law and the law of the respective jurisdiction in which your overseas assets reside, on the condition that the nation in which the assets reside in, is also a signatory to this convention. There are 13 contracting nations- Australia, Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, Ecuador, France, Holy See, Iran, Italy, Laos, Libya, Niger, Portugal, Russia, Sierra Leonne, Slovenia, United Kingdom, United States of America. These countries will acknowledge and accept a will that is made in accordance with the requirements of the Convention. The main requirement relates to the signage of the will- the will must be signed and witnessed by two individuals and an additional third party who is an authorized person, generally a legal practitioner.

There is also recognition of Australian wills in Commonwealth countries, irrespective of the fact that they may not be a signatory to the Convention. These countries include the United Kingdom and Canada who are parties, and New Zealand who is not.

An example of situation where you may wish to create an international will is if you have most of your assets in Australia but have a modest asset in a country which is a signatory to the Convention.

Secondary/Concurrent Will

Alternatively, you may wish to create a secondary/concurrent will. Where you hold assets in a country that is not a signatory to the Convention, you may create a secondary will, which operates in conjunction to an Australian will. This separate will is to be made by a practicing lawyer in the respective country, and it will only apply to the assets of that particular jurisdiction. You can have multiple concurrent wills. Where you create secondary wills, it is critical to inform each of your lawyers that you have multiple wills in various countries. This will make certain that your wills do not contradict one another, or accidentally become revoked or canceled.

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